There are just four games in the NBA on Thursday and the in-form Memphis Grizzlies face a test of their championship credentials as they entertain Milwaukee Bucks.
The Grizzlies sit in second spot in the Western Conference with an 18-9 record as they bid to show last season’s run was no one-off, while the Bucks are second in the East on 22-7.
Elsewhere, there is a huge Western Conference match-up as Los Angeles Clippers entertain Phoenix Suns, the improving Houston Rockets go in search of a sixth straight home win as they host Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans make the trip to Utah Jazz.
What: Milwaukee Bucks @ Memphis Grizzlies
Where: FedExForum, Memphis
When: 20:00 ET, Thursday December 15th 2022
How to watch: NBA League Pass
Odds: MIL Bucks +105, MEM Grizzlies -125
Memphis are the form team in the NBA and they have the longest ongoing winning streak as they are bidding to record a sixth straight victory.
The Grizzlies claimed second seed in the Western Conference last term, but they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by eventual champions Golden State Warriors in six games.
Memphis provided the Dubs with a huge test during that series and their performances this term suggest they can be a major threat in the West once again, but they do have a few injury worries ahead of Thursday’s game.
Ja Morant is the key man in the Memphis line-up but he was forced to sit out of Monday’s win over Atlanta Hawks with a thigh injury.
The point guard has missed two games during the Grizzlies’ current winning run, however, and the team has been able to prove on a few occasions over the course of 2022 that they can pick up wins when their superstar is missing - including a win over the Warriors during the playoffs last season.
The Grizzlies are also without Steven Adams (ankle) and Desmond Bane (toe), the latter of which is missing with a long-term issue, but their supporting cast have stepped up when required.
Tyus Jones led the game in scoring against the Hawks and forward Jaren Jackson Jr had 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, earning praise from his coach following the game.
"I think it's his awareness first and foremost. I think his timing's really improved," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of Jackson, via the official NBA website.
"He watched a lot of film, he took a lot of stock into what he accomplished last year and what he needed to work on last year going into the offseason."
Milwaukee slipped to a shock loss at Houston Rockets earlier this week, but they responded with a convincing 128-111 win over Golden State Warriors in their last game.
Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is +275 to win the Regular Season MVP award this season, had a big game with 30 points and 12 rebounds after a sub-par showing against Houston and there were also encouraging signs from fit-again Khris Middleton.
Middleton missed the start of the season with a wrist injury that required surgery and has initially struggled on his return but he produced a 20-point performance in that victory over the Dubs.
The Bucks were without the other member of their big three against Golden State as Jrue Holiday sat out the game through illness, and he could miss out once again on Thursday.
As a non-conference match-up, there isn’t a huge rivalry between the two teams, but this game does see Jenkins go head-to-head with Mike Budenholzer, having worked as the Milwaukee coach’s assistant at Atlanta Hawks.
It is also a chance for Memphis to demonstrate their championship credentials against a potential Finals Series opponent, while Milwaukee have the opportunity to claim back-to-back wins over quality Western Conference teams following their demolition of Golden State.
This should be a close game, even if Morant does miss out, and that is reflected in the Point Spread as Memphis are priced at -115 with a -2 handicap, while the Bucks are -105 with a +2 start.